The original Lost Planet was a tour de force of graphical achievement on the 360, and its (temporary) exclusive status was a real boon for Microsoft. The game featured some of the largest enemies ever seen and, despite an awful, confusing story, it was heralded as a classic.
Lost Planet 2 hopes to expand on this formula, giving fans more of the good stuff from the original, as well as taking the series in new directions, most notably beefing up the online support with full co-op for up to 4 players, alongside the usual competitive frag fests.
Ten years later…
Lost Planet 2’s story takes place ten years after the events seen in the original. The planet of E.D.N. III is far from safe, but the snow has started to melt in places, revealing tropical jungles and even deserts.
There’s a violent civil war taking place between various factions including the Snow Pirates, and the first game’s major foes, NEVEC. This war is all about resources, and everyone is battling for control over thermal energy, which just happens to be found in bulk within the Akrid, the indigenous species of the planet.
Over the course of the story you’ll control different factions, and missions take place all over the planet, taking in snowy wastes, dense jungles and the aforementioned arid deserts and much more.
There are several episodes each split into chapters, and then into missions. Often each chapter involves a battle against a huge ‘G-class’ Akrid, and other missions feature multiplayer-like territory control play.
Events revolve far more around human combat this time, with the Akrid taking a back seat, as the majority of the game will be spent fighting other factions.
The game itself plays in a very similar way to the first, unfortunately, complete with the same clunky controls. Basic handling like running and shooting is fine, but advanced options like rolling and using the game’s often broken grappling hook are as clumsy as ever, as is picking up weapons and throwing grenades.
And, for those hoping that Lost Planet 2 would improve upon the often poor camera, you’re out of luck, as the camera here often gets stuck behind scenery, and battles with large Akrid are often very confusing and unfairly difficult as you struggle to see what’s going on.
The single player campaign is an odd one. Unlike the traditional level-by-level approach of the first, this time you proceed through each of the game’s episodes by fighting through multiple chapters and missions. Some missions are oddly short, and upon reaching the end of a small area, the game stops, shows you a results screen, and then loads up the next area.
This is a clear indication that Capcom envisaged LP2 as a multiplayer-focused game, as each player is rated at the end of each tiny mission. This may seem like a good idea, especially for co-op, the game’s main focus, but it also damages the game itself, as the number and frequency of loading screens are overly intrusive, with end mission screens ripping you out of the action and killing any sense of immersion. Some later missions are notably longer than these short early skirmishes, though.
Luckily, when you’re actually in a mission, Lost Planet 2 hits its targets well. Visually the game is impressive, none more so than when you’re fighting enormous Akrid, and the core combat is solid, with some meaty weapons and a good selection of objectives and missions, with some truly epic boss fights, and intense objective-based battles.
There’s still a good deal of frustration, though, as enemy shots stop you from performing actions, and getting knocked down takes an absolute age to recover from, but it’s not too bad once you get used to things.
However, it’s not so easy to forgive the cheap and nasty way in which the large Akrid can seemingly hit you with attacks, even if you’re on the other side of a solid stone wall, or building. These attacks travel through solid cover, hitting you wherever you are. It’s more than a little unfair, and it demonstrates poor QA and lack of tight game mechanics or polish.
Some small changes have been made to the core gameplay migrated from the first outing. One notable change is the use of thermal energy. Whereas, in the original, this would constantly drain, requiring constant topping up by killing Akrid, this time the energy is used as a kind of medkit, and you can drain your stocks to heal yourself in mid-battle, or use a special tool to shoot energy at allies to heal them.
It’s imperative to keep gathering energy, otherwise you’ll be left unable to heal, which is important with so many elements against you.
The lean towards co-op play is the most glaring change, though, and this is where Lost Planet 2 is heavily focused. You can play the entire game with up to three friends, or three AI partners if playing solo. Whilst in the game, you have a battle gauge. When a player dies this battle gauge is depleted, and the player respawns at one of your team’s activated data posts (read: checkpoints). These points can be increased by activating data posts, and only living players use them. If you play solo with AI, your team mates can die as many times as they like without affecting the battle gauge. If you die too many times, though, this gauge empties, and it’s game over.
It’s not all change, however, and most of the first game’s features return. Vital Suits are again used, with more variety and the ability to manually fix damaged suits to keep them in the battle for longer. The environment is as dangerous as ever, with far more variety due to the new thawed out areas, including a speeding train, underwater areas and even outer space missions.
Of course, as I mentioned before, some of the game’s best moments are when doing battle against the large Akrid bosses (wait ‘till you get to the train level…). If you thought the first game had some large enemies, just wait until you see some of the critters roaming the planet this time. These guys are seriously huge, so much so that a viable tactic to take them out involves jumping into their mouths and killing them from the inside.
Many Akrid are also unique and have specific types of attack too, such as listening for the slightest sound before attacking, forcing players to keep quiet to avoid damage.
Blasting off limbs is still a good tactic, and the range of weaponry you have to do this is increased, including grenade launchers, lasers, sniper rifles and even deployable shields. You can carry large VS weapons too, and there’s a new suit of battle armour that grants greater protection from attacks.
Single player freeze
Lost Planet 2 is a good game, and one that fans of the series will no doubt welcome with open arms. The move to online co-op does come at the expense of a coherent single player, though, and the solo campaign experience, whilst enjoyable, isn’t as good as it should have been, partly due to some suspect AI (including some iffy enemy behaviour). That said, many missions are very well designed and the variety of locations, coupled with large-scale battles help elevate the experience above the first game.
For those looking for a solid multiplayer title, with both co-op and versus modes, Lost Planet 2 is going to impress, and it should keep players busy for some time to come. Working as a team to take down massive Akrid makes LP2 a unique and thrilling experience, and the ability to actually work as a solid team, helping each other heal and stay alive, makes for a winning formula. Indeed, the online options are by far LP2‘s strongest point, and this is where the game will truly shine.
All in all, Lost Planet 2 is a quality title that has a little something for everyone. There are some problems that could have been ironed out, such as improved controls and camera, and the difficulty does tend to drift into the realms of frustration from time to time, but niggles and a watered down campaign aside, there’s plenty to like here, and toppling giant Akrid is as enjoyable as ever.
Lost Planet 2 will be released on May 11 and can be pre-ordered from the Den Of Geek Store.